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7.6
/10
9 Ratings

Emperor Visits the Hell

唐皇游地府 / Tang Huang You Difu

Directed by Li Luo
China, Canada, 2012
Drama

Synopsis

There are surprises every year in China’s embattled indie sector, but few as unexpected as this one. Li Luo has taken three chapters of the Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West (aka Monkey) and adapted the story of the short-term death of Emperor Li Shimin…

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Emperor Visits the Hell Directed by Li Luo
Luo’s approach is to defamiliarize the material by radically banalizing it, the stuff of myth made to reflect a contemporary culture of cronyism, currying favor, covering up mismanagement, passing-the-buck, and greasing palms. In Luo’s hands the Dragon King (Mai Dian) becomes a petty gangster and Emperor Li Shimin (Li Wen) a stout bureaucrat who, at the film’s close, is seen breaking his character over a bibulous dinner, mouthing off about China as a peasant society that needs enlightenment.
August 08, 2015
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A quietly astonishing tour de force… Shooting in elegant, black-and-white long takes with a surgically precise attention to settings, props, and atmosphere, Li once again moves between several levels and types of narrative material: the historical record of the Taizong Emperor’s reign, the original descent-into-Hell myth, its transcription in Journey to the West, and a movie picture-book of the very film we are watching, the captions from which punctuate the film.
March 26, 2015
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It’s a timeless myth provocatively retold as a modern-day political satire, with Wuhan skyscrapers standing in for the inferno.
March 19, 2013
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